Monday, November 19, 2007

Azh's WoW Adventures: Zul'aman

With the recent release of patch 2.3 comes the first raid content since Upper Blackrock Spire that doesn't require crazy attunement/key quests.

Since out guild is very casual, we've never been to Karazhan and have only done a handful of heroics. So this was our first chance to try out a raiding instance in the Outlands. I'm speaking of the troll-infested Zul'man of course.

We knew going into it that Zul'aman was supposed to be the next progression after Karazhan, but I wanted to try it anyway, both as a guild bonding experience and simply to see some new content that none of us had seen before. It was an exploratory expedition of sorts.

So we gathered up: eight level 70s and one level 69. Two warriors, one priest, two shamans, one hunter, one rogue and two warlocks. We have a decent amount of epic PvP and arena gear, but given our lack of high-end PvE experience, no tanking epics. Both of our warriors were not protection specced and we both were wearing various blue items as defensive gear.

The first thing that happens inside is that you talk to an NPC who tells you to bang on a gong to open the gate. You need several people to bang on it at the same time and it takes a good 30 seconds or more of doing so before the gate will open. The NPC immediately runs through the gate, gets killed and aggros the first guards onto your party! This first group seemed to consist of two elite trolls and a number of non-elites. Nothing too troublesome, though we weren't expecting it.

And in fact, that is a big theme in this instance... triggered events. It seemed that around almost every turn we were hitting some invisible marker that called down the troll forces on us. Which is probably a lot of fun once you know what you're doing, but for first-timers it was hectic and crazy.

After that initial battle, you come out onto the grand staircase and get a nice panoramic view of the instance as well as plenty of space for resting. A patrol of two trolls is at the bottom of the stairs, one of them a 'Medicine Man' who drops totems. Kill the totems first! Especially the Protective Wards! They make the trolls invulnerable, which makes it a little tougher to kill them.

Turning right at the bottom of the stairs we see the bear boss, Nalorakk, up on a nearby ledge. At this point you have to start being careful about moving up before your party is ready. If you approach he calls out and sends his three guards after you as he moves farther back into the instance. This is a bit tricky as its hard to mark these trolls before they reach your party. And, as an undergeared tank with almost no protection talents, I couldn't take the hits from more than one of them at a time. Both times we fought this encounter I died before I could even get off an Intimidating Shout! Luckily, the second time around, the warlocks and priest managed to keep two of them feared while the second warrior occupied the third and the rest of our party took care of business.

Next up were the Amani Bears. These beasts came in pairs and hit like a two-ton bear (which they were!) After the first encounter with them we worked out a method of keeping one feared constantly while everyone chopped up the second for dinner and easily defeated the second group of bears without any losses.

Up some more stairs to confront Nalorakk again. And again, you have to watch where you step. As you approach the steps he sends more guards after you, this time it's four trolls of various kinds. We managed to defeat them by mind-controlling the Medicine Man, fearing one and tanking the other two. Then things got tough...

Up some more stairs and you have to face two Amani Warbringers. These are the Amani bears with trolls mounted on them. They hit extremely hard and have a roar that both increases their damage dealt and increases the damage taken by those affected. And, to top it off, they can both stack this debuff on you! Needless to say, they need to be tanked away from each other, but that's easier said than done. They both will aggro on the first person they see.

So after several unsuccessful tries we decided to see what lay in the other direction. We took a left at the bottom of the main stairs and saw a 'lookout' waiting up the slope. We figured he would call for some kind of help, so the plan was to charge in, hamstring him and try to take him out quickly. Unfortunately, we discovered that he is invulnerable and away he ran up the ramp. Two guards stood ahead of us. But as we prepared for the encounter, a wave of eagles flew down and assaulted our position. They were all non-elite, but their numbers made them hard to control. And, to top it off, two elite warrior trolls came up from behind us. We got things under control and took all of our foes out, but before we could rest another wave was arriving, and another and another... We must have defeated four or five waves before we were finally exhausted and overwhelmed. Apparently we needed to push forward through the attacks.

Back again we went, though this time we tried sapping the lookout, which actually worked! Sort of. He still ran up the ramp to summon the eagles and warriors, but it did buy us a few seconds with which to engage the first pair of guards. Unfortunately, we just didn't seem to have the firepower to defeat them fast enough and were again overwhelmed by the unrelenting assault from the trolls and their animal companions.

At this point we had been at it a little under 2 hours and decided to call it a night.

All in all, a very interesting instance. It's almost all scripted encounters, so if you're visiting for the first time, be prepared for lots of confusion and a steep learning curve. Though we ultimately met with defeat without even getting a shot at any of the bosses, it was great to have some 10-person content that was immediately accessible without having to jump through a lot of hoops.

I suspect that we will try to get some gear improvements before heading back, but I also think that simply having the experience and knowing what to expect next time would make a big difference as well.

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